Jollof Rice and Chicken is an absolute staple along the coast of West Africa. It is basically rice cooked in a rich tomato sauce and this idea is then interpreted in different ways in each country. For example, in Nigeria, we cook it with long grain rice; in Ghana it is made with basmati rice; in Senegal and the Gambia it often has little cubes of meat in it; and in Benin and Togo, it is ever so slightly Frenchyfied with bits of veg cooked in with it. Regardless of these differences, Jollof Rice remains one of those dishes that frankly, this blog would be incomplete without. In Nigeria, where I am writing this post from (although in the interests of full disclosure I should admit that I cooked this particular batch in London) no party is ever complete without steaming hot vats of peppery, smokey Jollof Rice being handed out, followed promptly by small chops. No Nigerian household goes a week without a good old pot of Jollof Rice being cooked and enjoyed. So the reason I was cooking this in London is similar to the reason why I was cooking Okra Soup in the middle of my holiday – because my siblings were insistent that I sort them out with food, since they are still away studying etc, and my parents in Lagos are the main beneficiaries of my kitchen adventures. See how they’ve turned me into their slave?
I generally don’t fry my meat or chicken because there’s no need for all that fat in your life and there’s a way in which deep frying absolutely everything seems a bit vulgar. Also, this would normally go with coleslaw, but again, I’m not too keen on all that mayo and there’s no reason why Jolly Rice can’t go with a nice fresh, crunchy salad. The peppery rocket leaves compliment it perfectly and the super-sweet, fruity tomato rounds off the bite.
Anyway, let me not go off on a complete tangent. Here’s how I made the Jollof and there are pictures etc below. The prep pictures come first and the finished meal is right at the bottom.
- Start with the chicken. Marinate with salt and pepper, paprika, Herbes de Provence or mixed herbs, some dried thyme, a teaspoon of olive oil and lime or lemon and stick it in the oven at about 190*C for an hour, depending on the size of your bird.
- Blend one onion, some tomatoes, tatase and fresh red pepper in the same proportions you would use for stew. If you live away from Nigeria and can’t get tatase, use a red bell pepper instead – like the kind you would put in a salad. Just de-seed it and chuck it in the blender with the rest of your ingredients.
- Put some oil in a pot and when it’s hot, pour the blended ingredients in. After a few minutes, turn the heat down and let it simmer until the stew is almost cooked.
- Season the stew with dried thyme, maggi, a pinch of curry, and whatever other seasoning you would normally use for stew. This is not the time to be bashful about Maggi. With things like Jollof Rice, you need to be liberal with the old stock cubes. No fluffy anti-MSG rants here please, save that for another day. Jollof Rice is Jollof Rice and it needs to be serenaded with Maggi.
- If you would like to moisten your chicken, now’s a time to take out a couple of spoon fulls of sauce and slather it over the baking bird. I didn’t do that this time, but it’s something I’ve done lots of times before and it gives you a really nice coating for the chicken.
- Now you can add your rice to the simmering sauce, which should have been washed and soaking for a few minutes so as to get rid of most of the starch. Put the rice in the pot and cover it with some more water.
- Now it’s time to adjust the seasoning – you will probably need a pinch of salt or some more herbs as the water sometimes dilutes the potency of your previous seasoning. Not always, but sometimes, so make sure you taste it often.
- Make sure the heat is nice and low so the rice can cook slowly and absorb all the lovely sauce.
- When the rice is cooked and all the water is dry, then turn off the heat. People say Jollof Rice always burns but that can be avoided if you use a non-stick pot and keep an eye on the heat. The only time I deliberately burn Jollof Rice is when I am going for the owambe/party rice aesthetic and I want there to be a strong smokey flavour; in which case I don’t bother to use a non-stick pan.
- When the chicken is done, bring it out of the oven and carve it up into pieces.
- To make the Rocket and Cherry Tomato Salad, I basically just dumped rocket and halved tomatoes on the plate and sprinkled on freshly ground black pepper, salt, some olive oil and some lime.